Kai Faucher, 6 feet 6 and 280 pounds, is pulling off the rarest of doubles. On Friday nights, he’s a standout offensive and defensive lineman for Studio City Harvard-Westlake High. Three or four times a year, he’s also playing the baritone saxophone at school concerts.
“Kai stands out in any crowd,” said Terry Barnum, head of athletics at Harvard-Westlake. “He looks like the other students, just three times bigger. We order an extra big chair for him.”
Committed to Brown for football, Faucher has made jazz part of his life since his seventh-grade band teacher suggested he switch from symphony to jazz because “you’re too good.”
“It was more improvisational nature than classical music, so I got into it playing various acts,” he said. “I fell in love with music.”
As much as five hours a week, he’ll practice his music at home in preparation for concerts, where he joins 19 other band members as the solo saxophone player. He’s prepping for a December concert. The discipline learned from football helps with music, such as staying focused in keeping perfect time when he’s about to enter with his saxophone.
Harvard-Westlake’s academics are challenging enough for students, but coaches aren’t afraid to encourage developing additional interests, such as acting, robotics, music, singing and dancing.
“I think a lot of times football players are depicted as kids who aren’t creative,” Faucher said. “It’s old stereotypes. Now it’s good that athletes aren’t just showcasing their athletic abilities but also their creative and artistic minds.”
Said coach Aaron Huerta: “I tell the kids I want them to do other things. It’s great for them, but it means there’s more responsibilities and it’s going to be harder.”
Faucher enjoys the chance to be an influencer in two completely different endeavors.
“I hope I have a presence and my own feel and personality when I play and paint my own picture as a player and as a soloist,” he said.
In football, he has helped the Wolverines (5-3) move to within one win of clinching a Southern Section playoff berth.
“He’s our offensive and defensive leader,” Huerta said. “He gets our guys going every day. He works with our young guys. The biggest thing is his demand for effort from other guys. He’s another coach. We’ve won five of the last six games and we’re going to throw the ball more than run because of him.”
Faucher had an interesting experience as college recruiters tried to impress him.
“Not too many recruiters know much about jazz but the ones who do I actually had great conversations with,” he said. “The UC Davis coach, we sang jazz back and forth.”
No matter how many pancake blocks Faucher gets in football, that environment of playing the saxophone is something he intends to savor.
“Jazz will be part of my life long after football,” he said.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.